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February 23 2019

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  Retro - Guerrilla War

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Game Stats
1 or 2 player

Overhead Shoot 'em up
Further Info:

Called 'Guevara' in Japan and edited in the west, this is perhaps the only commercially released game based on a marxist revolutionary!

Reviewed By:
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Guerilla War (Retro)

Ikari Warriors (Retro)

POW - Prisoner of War (Retro)



When you think of Che Guevara, what comes to your mind? Maybe the imfamous red and black poster on the bedroom walls of many politically-minded students, the acclaimed film ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’, the historical revolutionary’s defeat of the Batista regime in 1950s Cuba? How about a 1987 shoot-em-up by SNK?

Coming to think of it, the idea of turning the exploits of a Marxist revolutionary and turning it into something as capitalist as a video game is a bizarre one. Then again, who cares – you get to shoot some bad guys (and when I first played this I was too young to know who Che Guevara was anyway). The European and US localisations of the game chose to edit certain elements of the game, referring to “the cruel domination of the king,” with the game’s heroes and setting being unnamed. You just have to look at the games title image (“all hail the heroes of the revolution”), the shape of the map and the Japanese version’s title, Guevara, to notice the connection. Player one controls Guevara, whilst Player two seems to control his comrade Fidel Castro. In fact, it seems like everyone in this game has a beard! (Except for the evil ‘king’ – making this a very pro-facial hair game!)

The game itself plays pretty much exactly like SNK’s previous game Ikari Warriors but who better to repeat a successful formula than the creators of the original. Released only a year after the original Ikari, Guerilla War built upon its forefather with visuals that, although not outstanding, were a vast improvement with colourful and relatively detailed characters (for the time) that are still quite pleasing to the eye. Like Ikari, the cabinet features a rotating joystick that changes the direction your beardy revolutionary is facing, with fire buttons for gun and grenades. Like Ikari, your basic gun is poor, barely shooting a few inches in front of you but at least you have plenty of grenades (50 per life) that you’ll probably use more anyway. Power-ups include flame-throwers, rocket launchers and, like Ikari, tanks to steal. Continuing the whole ‘war for the people’ thing, the levels are full of hostages which you can rescue for bonus points, although more often than not they get caught in the crossfire.

It’s fair to say, like many 1980s arcade games, that Guerrilla War is tough as nails. The game is frantic and more often than not, you’re attacked from many directions. The screen is showered in bullets and given the amount of sandbags and crates, you can often have little room to manoeuvre if you’re not too careful. Enemies are often quite sneaky too, often throwing grenades from above (who can only be killed by grenades of your own), appearing for behind you or by dropping sandbags and mines to get in your way. The game does tread a fine line between challenge and frustration and the rotating joystick system, from Ikari Warriors, is a mixed blessing. As before, strafing the enemy is a useful skill to have but unfortunately this hardware also gives more than its fair share of problems, as turning around to face enemies in opposite directions can be a chore. Unfortunately many cabinets like this were left unloved with broken joysticks rendering such games unplayable.

Guerrilla War was reasonably successful back in the day, yet probably didn’t reach the same level of popularity as Ikari Warriors, although is arguably the superior title. However the game was converted to the Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum and most famously the NES (which was kind enough to give you unlimited continues and grenades). Playing what may indeed by the only commercially released video game based specifically on a revolutionary historical icon is an interesting novelty and like many classic top-down shooters, the game is fun for a quick blast, but that isn’t really enough to keep the interest going in the long term.

Overall: 7 out of 10

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Home Ports:

Ported to 8-bit computer systems like the C64 & ZX Spectrum.

Also ported to the Nintendo NES home console.

Review of NES version on by Bobak
Ikari Warriors
The precursor to this game and a key moment in SNK's history

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